Artist, Rotary wanted to honor community’s quarrymen roots

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 October 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Ninandré Bogue is pictured in front of a 20-foot-long mural he created in honor of the quarrymen who worked in the Medina sandstone quarries.

ALBION – A mural honoring the workers from local Medina sandstone quarries went up in downtown Albion this morning.

The 20-foot-long painting is located in Waterman Park next to Conrad Cropsey’s building.

“There is an emotional connection with these guys,” said artist Ninandré Bogue of Lyndonville, who created the mural. “There are roots in this community where people are still connected with these workers.”

While Bogue installed the mural with help from the Albion DPW this morning, one quarryman descendant, Vinny Navarra, stopped by and gave the painting his endorsement.

The installation created a buzz on Main Street with some merchants walking over to check it out.

“It gives some eye candy to a place that is a little stale,” said Mike Barnard, owner of Albion TV and Computer. “It certainly can’t hurt.”

Barnard said he knows there are many old quarries around Albion, but he didn’t know the history, the thousands of immigrants who came to the Orleans County to work with the stone. The biggest groups of immigrant stonecutters and quarry workers came from Italy, Poland, Ireland and Britain.

“I knew we had some sandstone history, but I honestly didn’t know much about it,” Barnard said.

These workers use pry bars in a quarry scene created by Nin Bogue.

Bogue looked at photos of the workers and quarries from more than a century ago to try to get ideas for the mural. Most of those photos showed workers in a posed position, resting big sledgehammers on boulders.

He used a book in Italian, that showed workers in quarries in Italy, to see how many of the jobs were done. Bogue said the jobs were dangerous, and they required strength and skill. He noticed many of the workers in the historic photos appeared to be teen-agers, or even younger.

One worker holds a spike while the other hits it with a hammer. Bogue said the workers split the stone by creating a line of holes about a foot apart and 12 inches deep. Holding the spike was a dangerous job, costing many workers their fingers.

The Albion Rotary Club pushed for the mural and lined up the funding with money from the local club, the Rotary District and the Orleans County Tourism Department.

The Albion Department of Public Works provided in-kind services. The DPW built the support structure to attach the mural.

The village and Rotary Club considered attaching the painting to Cropsey’s building, but that wouldn’t have been a good fit with some loose mortar and vinyl siding. Other sites were considered, but the village and Rotary Club preferred Waterman Park.

That spot about a half block south of the Erie Canal is eyed for a quarryman memorial, including a bronze statue of one of the immigrant workers. That project is in the early stages and will likely take at least a $100,000 fund-raising effort from the community to become a reality.

Most of the old photos of the quarry workers show them posed with big sledgehammers by sandstone boulders.

Rotary wanted to highlight the community’s quarrying roots with the mural, while utilizing art for a community beautification project. I’m a member of the Rotary Club and have been working on this project.

I’m hopeful we can lay the groundwork for the statue and start the fund-raising campaign for that early next year. If we can get a good start on the fund-raising, I think we’d have a good chance for a matching state grant.

We could make a compelling case that the statue and a quarrymen heritage site would be a tourism draw, would be an attraction for canal users and would give the downtown business district a boost. We’ll keep chipping away at that project.

Right now, we should celebrate the mural, which utilizes the talents of a local artist while honoring the people who were instrumental in building Albion and the other villages and hamlets in Orleans County.

We’re planning a ribbon-cutting for the mural on Saturday at 10 a.m. That will also serve as a kick off for a shopping tour with many Albion businesses from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. That event includes a raffle and prizes.

Bogue puts the finishing touches on the mural, securing it to its Main Street location this morning.